We met in Sydney. In a youth hostel to be specific. A private one where you shared a room with anyone regardless of gender. If there weren’t any beds and the staff liked the look of you, you got the offer of sleeping on the floor in the TV room to wait for a bed to come up.
Anyway we moved on from there. We rented a small studio flat, and he cheerfully went to work on the dockyard. Early start and reasonably early finish too. I didn’t do a lot.
This was more than 20 years ago.
When I was packed off back to Spain a few weekends ago I didn’t realise it was so he could go looking for work.
Even worse he found it. And rang me up to tell me about it and that I had to be back on Sunday.
So come Monday morning, we both slipped back in time the odd 20 years. Got up together, had coffee and toast, I made his sandwiches and he set off for work with his tools and his overalls.
And then I had the rest of the day to myself. Just like Sydney. So when I had done a quick mop-out, I sat around thinking about the similarities – and the differences.
He’s working on a big site again. He worked on a dockyard in Sydney on an island. The place he’s working at strangely enough is also called locally “the island” probably because it is on reclaimed land.
Gibraltar reminds us of Sydney. It has a similar climate, a spectacular setting, beautiful harbours and maritime views, and a British colonial heritage.
People seem easy going and happy – a bit like Aus when we were there in the late 80s. Maybe those are some of the reasons we feel at home here.
We’re in a flat again, but this time it is slightly bigger. It has a bedroom, and it also happens to be ours, not rented. All we had in Sydney were a couple of rucksacks and what we had crammed in them to travel – in my case round the world, in his case to Australia for the third time.
Everywhere is within easy reach of our flat. And if we don’t feel like walking, there is a good bus service.
We have a dog too. The large furry monster rescued in Spain. And we have not just one, but two Land Rovers, an English one and a Spanish Santana. Add to that a few bikes, although only one was bought, all the others were rescued and repaired. And we have the house in Spain (complete with chickens). So now we have a bit more than two rucksacks. After more than 20 years together and 15 years non-stop busting a gut in the UK I think we should have something to show for it.
We aren’t rich, we aren’t poor. We’ll never be rich – hopefully we will never be poor either. It’s a matter of opinion and it depends on what you use as a comparison. Rich to me is being able to afford one of the nearly £3m houses that poor Grafting Partner is working on. I wouldn’t want one. If I was rich enough to afford a house here, it would be an old colonial one in the town, not some modern statement house on the waterfront.
But flat life suits – at least there aren’t too many floors to mop out – and that’s a major advantage. And city life is such a change. Hay que cambiar – as a Spanish friend once said.